Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves.
New Orleans Hornets Team Overview
The Hornets finished last season with a 21-45 record, tied for fourth-worst in the NBA. The Hornets traded away Chris Paul before the season to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Gordon and a few others. Gordon missed most of the season with an injury and the Hornets became a team in rebuilding mode.
The Hornets struck gold in the NBA Draft Lottery winning the top pick and chance to draft Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Davis was by far the No. 1 prospect and one of the highest touted players coming out of college in a long time.
The Hornets also drafted Austin Rivers in the lottery, taking him 10th overall in the draft. New Orleans went out and acquired Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick via trades this offseason and now look to have a much better roster than last year.
The Hornets will be parting ways with Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Gustavo Ayon, Chris Kaman, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli and Jerome Dyson from last season.
The Western Conference is very deep and the Hornets still have a lot of work to do to begin competing for a playoff spot any time soon but the future is very bright in New Orleans.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Hornets three times last year and beat them each time.
The Thunder won 95-85 in New Orleans on Jan. 11. Kevin Durant had 29 points and 10 rebounds to lead OKC. Russell Westbrook added 22 points and seven assists and James Harden had 14 off the bench.
The Hornets made only 1-of-16 threes in the game as Chris Kaman and Carl Landry led them in scoring with 17 each.
On Jan. 25, the Thunder beat New Orleans 101-91 in OKC. Durant again led the Thunder with 25 points and seven rebounds. Westbrook and Serge Ibaka each had 14. Harden scored 18 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field.
The Thunder shot 53.1 percent from the field while New Orleans again struggled from deep going 1-for-7 on threes.
The Thunder won again at home on Feb. 20 101-93. Durant and Westbrook each scored 31 while Harden sat out the game with an ankle sprain. New Orleans shot just 36.3 percent in the game.
Durant averaged 28.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game vs. the Hornets in three meetings last season. He shot .612 percent from the field and .500 percent from three.
Westbrook averaged 22.3 points and 5.3 assists per game. He shot .426 percent from the field and averaged 4.7 turnovers per game.
Harden averaged 16.0 points and 4.5 assists per game.
The Hornets had just the 25th best offense in the NBA last season in terms of overall points per possession. They struggled on spot-up shooting plays, ranking 27th in the league, and were the worst in isolation plays.
New Orleans was decent in their pick-and-roll offense, ranking 8th in the league, while the Thunder pick-and-roll defense was 11th best.
The Hornets did have the 13th best overall defense in terms of PPP. They were 3rd best defending spot-up plays and 7th best vs. isolation plays. They were only 22nd best vs. pick-and-roll plays though.
The Thunder offense was most dominant in isolation and pick-and-roll plays. They were a good spot-up shooting team as well and would also hold an advantage vs. the Hornets in transition where the Thunder had the 6th best offense while New Orleans was just 25th best.
The Hornets begin a new era next season with rookie Anthony Davis. He could be a franchise changer that turns New Orleans into a championship competitor in the future.
Developing chemistry with their new parts and staying healthy is going to be critical for the Hornets next season. It will be a challenge for Gordon and Rivers to learn to play together in the back court and the playmaking for New Orleans may suffer some next season with less minutes for a true point guard.
The Thunder really have no problem playing the Hornets. Durant had a very easy time scoring and putting up big numbers while the Thunder defense held New Orleans to 93 points or less in each of the three meetings.
The Hornets have the pieces to become a very good team down the road but next year they won’t be on the level of OKC just yet.